Tag Archives: spinning

Sheep Delayed

Sheep Delayed

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It’s been almost two weeks since one of my favorite days of the year: the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.  I get to buy fiber and spur of the moment yarn only at MDS&W and at Rhinebeck in the fall.  Which is probably a good thing.  If I allowed myself to buy the kind of things I get a festivals whenever I wanted, we’d be living out of my van.  Granted it would be warm and soft in there with all the fiber, but still, I think the kids prefer having indoor plumbing.

A little bit of a shift this year, as normally we go on Saturday morning.  But the church was having its annual fundraising auction Saturday night.  I had volunteered to bring food and had a couple of items I had put up in the auction, so I needed to be there.  I dragged the kids and the Aquarians along as well.  Nikki was open minded about checking it out, and I think she had a good time.  Morgan was REALLY resentful that I made him go, but in the end he got a couple of items he was really excited about, so hopefully he’ll be a little more open minded about it next time I want him to go to something.  The peril was in not spending all my fiber money at the auction!

I was worried about getting to the show on time, as I was hearing horror stories about the wait times and parking, so we left home at about 5:30 Sunday morning.  It’s a 3 hour drive to the Howard County Fairground, which really is ridiculous that we go, since we rarely spend more than 4 hours or so, so we spend more time in the car than at the show.  But honestly, it’s worth it.  And leaving that early turned out to be an equally good idea.  We got there at 8:15 and got to park right outside the gate, which was BRILLIANT.  We weren’t the first there by any means, but that’s okay.  There were none of the delays going back to the off-ramp on the highway that we have run into in past years.  Such a much nicer entry into the fair!

When I say we, I’m talking me, Nikki, Xander and Hero.  This is another thing that I can’t get Morgan to come to, and in the wisdom of choosing my battles I don’t make him.  But the kids have a good time.  The first year I took them, I gave them both their cell phones and set them loose with $20 each and orders to check in every hour.  Which they did beautifully.  So I’ve gotten more relaxed, especially as they’ve gotten older.  This year it was, “Yeah, whatever, check in when you’re ready for lunch.”  They were gone prectically before we’d cleared the gate.

I went in with a very specific list of needs.  Not a long list, though.  Which may have been my downfall.  I needed two new bobbins and a replacement orifice hook for my travel wheel, and I wanted some fiber to start learning how to card with the hand carders Nikki scored me when she was out in Lancaster.  Beyond that, I had no restrictions.  Oh, and I needed a new jar of Wood Beams.  (I love this stuff.  Even if you don’t spin, I recommend it for using on your cutting boards, rolling pins, wooden spoons, whatever.  And no, I’m not getting paid to say that!)

When you go to a show often enough, you develop a strategy.  We hate crowds, so we go to the main building first before it gets so congested you can’t even move.  Even at this early hour, the big name dyers already had lines 20 people long (the show didn’t even officially open for almost half an hour after we got there).  My wheel builder was actually in one of the barns, but he’s always in the same spot right on the end, so we stopped there first before the barns got insane as well.  Got my two bobbins, and he gave me the orifice hook for free, saying it’s not uncommon for them to break, so the first one is always free!  Get a Merlin Tree wheel, people.  Seriously.  Then it was off to the main building.

We actually stayed pretty focused on that building this year.  Some really interesting new vendors.  One place called itself the dollar store of the show, and I got some great nicknacks there.  A little travel tool kit, a pair of really sharp yarn snips, and some conductive thread so I can make smart phone compatible gloves.  They also had some lovely jewel toned merino that I got on a second visit.  We stopped at Into the Whirled, as we always do.  I only got one braid of fiber from them this year, as they didn’t have any bamboo blend, but I did get four skeins of finished yarn, three for a big project (yet undecided on) for me and one skein of Moriarty as a prize for the 221b team in the Ravellenic Games this year.  At a new stall for me, I was introduced to silk caps.  Silk comes in a couple of different ways for spinning.  You can get it in hanks of combed top like wool fibers, but it also comes in compressed layers, usually squares called hankies, since that’s what they look like.  Caps were something new to me, so I asked the vendor about them.  Basically, they look like stocking caps.  When you spin them, instead of pulling them apart like you would with a hankie, you just turn it inside out, pull out some of the threads from near the crown to whatever thickness you want for your yarn, and spin.  The fiber then unravels itself from the cap.  I was really curious, so I bought two, one in a purple/blue and one in a copper colorway.  I’m looking forward to trying those.  The other new vendor I got excited about was a place called Bead Biz.  They had, as the name implied, trays and trays of strings of beads for fiber crafts.  When we first found them, I didn’t have any projects in minds, so I just petted and coveted and moved on.  But after I got the ITW yarn, I knew it needed beads, so I went back and finally got a shimmer steel blue set.  I’m really itching to start something with them, but I’m forcing myself to wait until I finish one major WIP that’s kicking my ass.

Other little goodies I got:  A bag of dyed Gotland sheep curls.  I love Gotlands so much.  I do think those are going to be my fiber sheep when I get the farm.  Got some blue beads to make a full set of shawl stitch markers, since having a bunch of random markers on a project makes me crazy.  I got an inexpensive drop spindle to teach one or two people at church how to spin.  And I got a bag full of alpaca fiber to practice my carding on.  There were a couple of plant vendors tempting me as well.  I didn’t need any tomatoes, and for the moment I am resisting peppers (we’ll see how long that lasts.  I do still have two self-waterers in the shed…)  But I did get a lavendar and a lemon verbena to go in a couple of urn planters I trashpicked.

What I didn’t come home with was a big bag of raw wool.  It was a near thing.  I suspect I won’t be as lucky at Rhinebeck if we go this year.

We had a late lunch, intending to hit all the barns, but by then it was almost 1:30 (how did that happen?), everything was getting crowded, and we were exhausted.  So we gave up, satisfied with our purchases and our day, and hit the road home.  Dropped Nikki off around 5 and we were home by 6:30.  I had about enough energy to photograph everything and order in dinner before I collapsed.  It was a good, productive weekend, but honestly, I’m getting to old for that much excitement!

The Bench

The Bench

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So, this is the bench.  Isn’t it cute?  Simple, but with some nice wood turning.  Well worn but not too beat ups.  The finish is worn, but there aren’t any gouges or chipped off pieces.  Just a nice, sturdy little piece.

Taffy likes it, too.

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Actually, all the rabbits like it.  Not sure why.  I guess it’s just the right height for them.

Obviously the seat needed to be recovered, but I wanted to do something about the finish as well.  Not strip it, because I didn’t want to lose the look, but just filling in the pale spots.  I had some red mahogany stain in the basement from when I stained my spinning wheel, so I decided to just give the whole thing a coat of that and then a coat of wax.  I gathered my materials and got to work.

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I didn’t take enough pictures of the process, because it got downright funny at times.  The stain went on in about 5 minutes, then I washed up and got to work on the seat.  Loki and Sam were both in, and they wanted to help with that.  I don’t know what was in the old fabric, but they both kept chewing on it like it was the best thing they’d ever eaten.  I got that and the padding off easily (it just came apart as I tugged on it) and then got down to prying out the brads that had held it in place.  That was not so easy, and did end up drawing blood a couple of times, as I had to pry them out with a screwdriver.  It didn’t help that Sam was still going for the fabric which I was using the catch the tacks while Loki was using the board itself as a sliding board.  Talk about being double teamed!

Once that was all cleaned up, I set the foam in place, lined up the fabric and started stapling.  I maybe should have gotten a slightly larger piece of foam or some batting to wrap it in, because even with pulling the fabric tight before I stapled it, there’s still a bit of hollow space around the edges.  But otherwise it looks great.  The paisleys in the fabric centered really nicely.

I wiped off the extra stain and then let it sit overnight.  Then Monday I applied the wax.  Just one coat, enough to seal in the new stain without diminishing the aged quality of the old varnish.  Then it was just a matter of screwing the seat back in place and taking the “after” pictures!

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I have just enough of the fabric left that if I was a decent seamstress, I would love to make it into a little box bag with buttoned straps to attach to one arm and keep my spinning notions in.  But other than that, it’s just absolutely perfect.  For $1 (plus $25 in materials.  Oops.) I have a perfect little spinning bench!

Fair Share

Fair Share

That was a long weekend.

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Our babies did good, though.  Both Tux and Taffy took First Place and Best in Breed, which meant they got to complete for Best in Show.  They didn’t win, but it was an honor just to be nominated! 😉

And I ended up on display on Saturday!  Hero wanted me there for the day on Saturday, so I took my travel wheel and camped out behind the cages out of everyone’s way and started working on a project for Nerdopolis.  Within 10 minutes one of the club parents asked me if I’d mind sitting out front where people could see me and answering questions.  Thank goodness I’d brought the yarn I’d made from Taffy’s fur!  Since I was spinning sheep, and Masham, which is not a very soft fiber, at that, I was able to show the difference between different fibers and let people fondle the yummy finished yarn.  I played Find the Rabbit That Made This with some of the kids, and they got a kick out of that!

And Peggy got a new forever home!  It was hard to let her go, but her new home is everything we could have hoped for her.  This boy who I think was about Xander’s age and who I think also had learning disabilities, camped out in front of her for about an hour, insisting to his parents that he wanted her.  I think they were hesitant, but the grandmother of one of Hero’s 4H friends talked to them for about half an hour, answering any questions they had and telling them about the club.  They convinced him to join, and while he was over at the petting table, they bought her for him as a surprise.  The absolute joy on his face when they gave her to him was worth everything!  And he’s going to be in the club, so Hero will still get to see her occasionally.  Peggy needed to be an only rabbit, and she is going to get spoiled rotten, I can just tell.  It really was the best result we could have hoped for.  It was hard letting her go, though.  We were all a little teary afterwards.  Even Hero’s friend with the grandmother said, “I’m getting teary and I’ve only known her for a DAY!”

Sam, however, didn’t sell, which I don’t mind too much.  Sam is my favorite, so I don’t mind keeping her around.  She may yet get a different home, though.  Just before the fair, one of Hero’s school friends was asking about adopting one of ours into their herd, as her dad’s rabbit is sick with cancer.  There just wasn’t enough time for everyone to meet the rabbits and see if any of them would fit well into their group, but I think Sam would be best suited for that environment anyway, as she plays better with others.  So Hero has reached out to her, and we’ll see if anything comes of it.

If not, we have space for 4 rabbits now.  While they were all gone, I had the boys clean out the shed as best they could, and we set up a formal rabbitry space there.

 
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It still needs some work. We want better platforms to hold the crates, and I’m trying to score old carpet to cover the floor. But it’s a good start. Hero’s going to hang her bunny crossing sign in there.

It was a little traumatic the first night.  Hero didn’t like not having them in the house where she could spoil them easily, but there just wasn’t enough room indoors for all of them.  Even I was a little anxious.  Were they okay?  What if something happened?  Loki apparently didn’t like it, but that may just be because she’s never been anywhere but in the house.  And Taffy pulled out some of her fur, which made us all nervous, but in the end I think that was just because she was hot.  We tried grooming her, but nothing came off.  We did put a fan in the window to improve the circulation, and we’ve got a clamp light in there now so Hero can see at night when she feeds and waters them.  They all get time in the house every day, but now they’re confined to the kitchen and pantry, which are easier to clean up.  Which makes me happy in a selfish way.  I scrubbed the hell out of the dining room floor in all the spots they’d been using as toilets and mopped and waxed the whole thing, and we cleaned the living room and hall as well.  So the house is now relatively fit for company.  Which makes me feel a little more relaxed and in control.  And with the rabbitry set up, we’re in better shape for next year’s breeding program.  We’re looking for a French male to breed her with in the spring, and I may have him breed Loki and Sam, too, just to see what we get out of them.  Once we have working rabbits, then Tux may come back into the house, as he really is a pet.  That distinction between pet and animal is a fine one, but I think that’s one of the lessons we need to start learning now if we plan to be farmers.

So, thus ends another 4H year.  Next year’s project will be more practical, in that Hero gets to learn how to make a rabbit carrier instead of having to do a poster, and we know what her plans are for the rabbits, with the breeding plan. Which, it turns out, is actually a 4th year assignment!  So she’ll be ahead of the game.  But for now, we’re just going to take a deep breath and rest on our laurels for a little bit.

And I guess I need to develop a better rabbit-centric spinning demo…

 

Spinning My Wheels

Spinning My Wheels

It feels like I don’t have any free time anymore.  But I do.  What I have is things I’m doing that are taking up all my free time and keeping me from doing other things that would take up my free time.  For example, for three weeks in July, I did the Tour de France.

Well, no, I did the Tour de Fleece.  But it’s totally the same thing.

 

For those of you who are new around here, the Tour de Fleece is a spinning challenge that happens on Ravelry and off where spinners set goals based around the Tour de France.  The usual goal is to spin every day the Tour rides, but each person sets their own goals as well.  My goals were simple:  Spin a pound and a half of lovely Gotland wool I got at Rhinebeck last year, and then anything else that met my fancy, and to get comfortable with my new wheel.

I went a little crazy.

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The spinning went with me everywhere.  It went to DC.

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It went to a taping of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me!

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And every night, I did at least two ounces of the endless gray Gotland.

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All that in addition to being the head honcho of the Tour on Ravelry.  Free time?  Yeah, what’s that?

In then end, though, I finished a lot of yarn.

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A LOT of yarn.

Now that it’s over, I find myself desperate to knit.  ALL THE THINGS.  I have started and finished a hat, started a headband and a shawl, and am set up to start a shrug, all out of handspun.  And if I haven’t had enough, I’m starting another spinning project.

Oh, and we’re starting to plan for next year’s summer Ravellenics Games.  Which start the week after next year’s Tour.

Who, me, crazy?

A New Addition to the Household

A New Addition to the Household

I thought I’d spare you another exercise post to introduce you to a new member of my family.

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This is Idris.  Or possibly Amelia.  We’re still getting to know each other, so I’m not really settled on a name yet.  She is a Merlin Tree Roadbug spinning wheel, and she’s just about perfect.

I’d been wanting a travel wheel almost since I started spinning.  I love my Bumblebee, but she’s big and heavy and hard to take to knit nights and on trips.  I’d seen the Roadbugs at fiber festivals, but the booth was always too crowded to try one.  In the meantime, I was hanging out in the Bluebonnet group on Ravelry where everyone sang the praises of their Thimbles, the Bluebonnet travel wheel.  I loved the idea of supporting independent craftspeople, which Jerry at Bluebonnet is.  Every wheel is handmade by him, use parts interchangeably across the line (so my Bumblebee bobbins would work on my Thimble) and with one of the mainline wheel brands, so it would be easy to get more bobbins as I needed them.  Last year, I saved up all of my birthday and Christmas money, and got the Thimble, sight unseen.

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We were not happy together.

Don’t get me wrong, the Thimble is a sweet little wheel. But she and I just didn’t work together well.  I could never get the tension smooth, so I was always fighting with her while drafting, and while she folds up compactly, you have to have an easily lost hex wrench to do it.  This was not a get up and go wheel.  I started calling her Hermione, because she was obviously smarter than I was, could do anything, and I just couldn’t keep up.  I tried.  Lord knows, I tried.  I think I made 5 different yarns on her in five different fiber blends.  It just never took.

And then, this year at Maryland Sheep and Wool, I finally got to try a Roadbug.

It was damn near perfect.  For a wheel I had never touched before, I was able to sit down and instantly be spinning fine single.  It was quiet and stable.  It didn’t fight me at all.  If I’d had the money, I would have walked out with one right then and there.  I tried to get Nikki to try it, but she refused.  Said she didn’t want to be tempted (and then went and bought three new drop spindles.  I know where her heart lies.  At least for the moment…)  But I knew I had to have one.

When I got home, I looked at my finances and knew I just didn’t have the money to get one.  But I did have something of value.  The Thimble.  So I decided to bite the bullet and put her up for sale or trade on Ravelry.  If I sold her, I’d have enough money to buy a brand new Roadbug.  Instead, I got a message from a woman in California who had a Roadbug that didn’t suit her and who was interested in the Thimble.  We talked, and agreed to a straight swap, although I kept all but one of the Bluebonnet bobbins (I still need those for my Bumblebee, so now I can build up lots of singles!).

The shipping was PAINFUL pricewise, and I think she got a better deal than I did, but I don’t care.  I love this wheel.  Honestly, as soon as I saw it was TARDIS blue, I knew I had to have it.  I’ve brought her to work with me twice, and while I won’t take her camping with me this first trip, I may in the future, and I’ll definitely take her with me to DC next month.  I need a few more bobbins for her, and I’m trying to decide if/how I want to decorate her.  She’ll get a good workout during the Tour de Fleece next month.  And the best thing is that the woman who got my Thimble is just as happy as I am with her new wheel!  We keep tripping over each other in the Merlin Tree and Bluebonnet groups, bonding over our shared problems and joy.  It was a good swap.

So, lessons learned.  Always road test before you buy (although honestly I don’t know if that would have helped with the Thimble.  It was only after working with her for a while that I figured out our incompatability), and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want.

Now I just have to decide on a name…

Sheeeeeeeep!

Sheeeeeeeep!

Last weekend we went to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, as we do every year.  It’s a long drive just to spend a few hours, but it’s always worth it, and this year was no exception.

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It was a gorgeous day, and the kids actually got up fairly easily.  They love going to this every year, although I’m not sure why.  Maybe it’s because I give them $20 each and tell them to get lost until lunchtime!  So we got out the door on time and stopped for gas.

Which was when I found I didn’t have my debit card.

I knew I’d had it the night before, because I’d bought groceries and had (thankfully) taken $200 in cash out of the ATM.  Got the gas on my credit card and went back to the house to make sure I hadn’t stuffed it in my pants pocket.  No joy.  Tried calling the store to see if they had it, but they said if I’d left it in the ATM, the in-store bank would have it and they wouldn’t open until 9.  So there went my money plans for the day.  Which may have been a good thing.  I have a low credit limit on my card, so I would only be able to go so wild, and I did have the $200 in my wallet, so we could still do our think.  I was just upset that, if I had lost it, it would mean replacing it for the third time in three months.  Frustrating.

So, 20 minutes late, we scooted down to Philly to grab Nikki, got lost in South Philly trying to get to the highway (I don’t know why I have such a hard time getting out of S. Philly.  I only lived there for three years…) and finally got on 95.  Pedal to the metal, baby.  Well, at least for me.  I was doing 80 a lot and still getting passed, so I don’t feel too bad about it, but I needed to make up that lost time.  I know what the parking lines get like if you get there too late.  Like, they close the off-ramp, the line gets so long.  We took the northern route of the Baltimore loop (not sure why Google maps always tries to send me down through the city.  Not happening, friend.) and hit the off ramp just as the line of traffic was starting to back up into the highway.  We spent about 20 minutes in the line just to get into the fairground, but our parking spot wasn’t terrible.  Loaded everyone up with water bottles, distributed spending money, and off we went!

The kids peeled off as soon as we got through the gates.  I was on a mission, though.  This year, come hell or high water, I was going home with something to process fiber on.  I really wanted a blending board, but I know how much those suckers run ($185-230, depending on the maker).  So first stop was the auction tent to see if there was anything there I wanted to try for.  There was a beautiful Irish tower wheel that I coveted, but nothing that I HAD to have, so Nikki and I went off to shop instead.

Before we even got into the exhibition hall, though, I ran into my spinning teacher who was standing in the doorway waiting for someone.  I haven’t seen Deb in almost two years, so I went up to her with an excited, “Hey, lady!”  And she looked at me blankly.  “Um, hey?”  I knew what was happening.  “It’s Steph.”  Her whole face popped.  “Oh my god, I didn’t recognize you!”  Which honestly, is a gratifying reaction to my weight loss but a sad commentary on me keeping in touch with my friends.  We caught up briefly, as she had to get somewhere, but it was so good to see her.  I have to get up to Doylestown for one of their spinning days to see them.

After that it was shop, shop, shop.  I hate to buy anything until I’ve seen everything, so Nikki usually makes the first purchases, and this year was no exception.  But we were both there with a mission.  She wanted a good spindle and fiber.  Grabbed many business cards for places I wanted to go back to when it was time to spend.  She found the Bosworth table, which, if you want a good spindle, yeah.  And then we found a new vendor we have both fallen in love with.  It’s The Whispering Woodturner, and they had the most gorgeous wooden knitting tools I’ve ever seen.  Beautiful turned yarn bowls and darning eggs and these awesome gadgets they called a swirlette which is basically a lazy susan for your ball of yarn.  And blending boards!  Cheap, beautiful blending boards.  $140 cheap.  I should have grabbed one then and there, but I stuck by my plan.  Now that I knew I was getting my board, I was on the lookout for things to use on it.  I got a couple of cheap bags of dyed locks and two little packages of dyed roving blended with some sparkle for some pop on the board.  Met up with the kids for lunch briefly, then off we went to actually damage our bank accounts.  I went straight to the WW and found there was only one board left, a blond one with some interesting markings.  Not as interesting as the cherry one I’d had my eye on, though.  I asked the owner if they had any other boards, and he said no, that was their last one.  “No, it’s MINE.”  So yeah, I lucked out.  As he was packing it up, he told me that it was ambrosia maple, meaning it’s wood from a maple tree that had been attacked by ambrosia beetles, which was what caused the interesting streaks in it.  It really is a lovely piece, and I can’t wait to find the time to sit and play with it.  Nikki got a swirlette from him and tried to buy a yarn bowl, but it was the one they were raffling off, so she was disappointed in that.  That worked out in her favor, though, because our next stop was the Bosworth booth, where she bought not one but THREE spindles.  My favorite is the one made of teak from a Buddhist temple destroyed in an earthquake.  The timing was just too significant not to need that spindle.  Then I got a lovely fiber batt and some mulberry silk from Wild Rabbit (I love their silks and am so glad they had their own booth this year!), and I got two skeins of tencel from Just Two of Us to make a sweater of some kind out of.

Which was when my credit card squawked.

So, I was done shopping.  But it had been a great day, and I got everything I’d intended without bloating my stash.  Hero got herself a Bunny Crossing sign, and Xander got a rabbit in a magician’s hat puppet, so everyone made out well.  Our last purchase was two bags of tea cookies to eat on the road home, which the others rolled their eyes at when I bought them, but were moaning over as soon as they tried them.  They were GOOD cookies.

Didn’t have too much traffic on the drive home, except after we dropped Nikki off and had to get around the city Science Festival.  Tempting to stop, but we didn’t.  I did stop at the grocery store to see about my card, but it was 5 and the bank closed at 3, so bag it.  Went home, made dinner for the kids, and then I actually went out for my run.  It wasn’t a bad one, either, considering how much time I’d spent on my feet that day!

The results of the day:

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(Oh, and my card was locked up in the ATM safe and sounds.  The tellers were very kind about getting it out for me.  So no replacement!  Woot!)

The Rest of the Weekend

The Rest of the Weekend

So, I had three days off, no appreciable housework to do and no guests.

For a few minutes Friday morning, I honestly had no idea what to do with myself.

Then I remembered I had spinning to finish.  So I queued up the Netflix and finally watched North and South (the BBC version, not the cheesy 80’s American one) while I plied my yarn.  By the time the series ended (took me a while to get into it, but by the end I was fixated), I had finished a lovely yarn.

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330 yards of fingering weight in a camel/silk blend.  I wish you could feel this stuff.  I swear to god, it’s softer than kitten fur.  This was a test spin to see if I would like this for a post-surgery sweater.  OMG I can’t wait until January when I can order my sweater quantity!  I’m already knitting this up into a beaded cowl.  Pictures as it develops.

Once that was done, I decided to take on another craft project.  I had to run to the grocery store anyway, so I stopped at Lowes and got rubber grommets, dowels and teeny tiny cup hooks to do a proof of concept test for a twist on CD drop spindles.  Not bad for a test.

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These are far from finished.  I need to shape the dowels into something more attractive and at least wax them, if not stain them.  I also want to glue the CDs together for stability and glue them into the grommet, and glue the grommet to the dowel.  But I did try spinning with these, and was pleasantly surprised to find that while they’re a tad heavy (1.5 oz on the poplar shaft and 1.75 on the oak shaft), they spin fast and balanced and for a long time, all the way to the floor while I’m standing.  And even though I was spinning for a fingering weight single, it didn’t break the thread even with the weight.  They should get a little lighter as I shape the dowels, but in general I’m really pleased.

I took a break for dinner and invented a recipe.  Sweet Potato Salmon Patties.  I used the leftover sweet potatoes from Thanksgiving that I made from this recipe (which was EXCELLENT and which I will definitely make again).  For each cup of potatoes (I used 2), I added one large can of salmon and one cup of breadcrumbs.  You could use dried, but I threw some of the leftover rolls in the food processor and made fresh.  Add an egg and salt and pepper to taste.  If you have plain old mashed sweet potatoes, you could also add some garlic powder or any other seasoning that floats your boat.  Mix it together by hand and shape it into 4 patties, then fry them up in a little nonstick spray (or butter if you’re decadent) on medium heat, and voila.  These tasted great and were VERY filling.  And used up most of the leftover sweet potatoes.  Yay!

After that, I got on the computer to work on another art project.  See, I’m getting to the point where I want to open an Etsy store, but I need product.  The drop spindles will be one of the items.  I love that they’re done label side out, so you can buy one that reflects your personality.  I’m going to comb thrift stores and yard sales for CDs with interesting labels from now on.  But I need a logo for the store, and I want to sell labels and tags as well as some other paper goods, like project pages for knitting or spinning project binders.  I know I want my logo to be based on the paisley shape, but I wanted a personal one, so I started drawing my own.  I scanned the version I’d been working on into Photoshop and started playing with it, drawing shapes, building using existing shapes, and learning how to path text.  I ended up with this:

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I’m very pleased with it (although I think I may need to redraw the pentacle).  And I think I’m going to do the labels/tags with different quotes in the text paths when I put them up for sale.  So I’m excited about that!

Unfortunately, the rest of the weekend wasn’t as artsy as Friday.  Saturday I had to take Morgan into the city so he could do an assignment for his art history class, which wasn’t so bad, as it meant I got to spend an hour or so at Nikki’s (and she got to try the drop spindle.  She approved).  Then home to try a new recipe, Lasagna Rollups.  The idea was a thumbs up from everyone, although Hero wasn’t crazy about the spinach.  Sunday wasn’t much better.  I planned to spend the whole day in front of the TV knitting, but then the DVD/VCR player died, and since it was still Black Whatever, I figured I’d hit Best Buy and get a cheap replacement, plus I’d been needing to replace Hero’s lost phone.  So we risked Best Buy, which wasn’t horrible.  The first time.  But then we got home, and I found out that the Blu-Ray player I’d gotten for $50 was the wired kind, not the wireless, so I had to take it back.  Finally got that up and running (thankfully I’d been smart enough to buy an HDMI cable when we were there the first time), and it is pretty sweet.  I can stream everything right from the player.  Except DropBox.  But I think I figured out how to stream stuff to it from my computer, so we’ll see.  And then I realized that Virgin and Verizon phones have almost exactly the same packaging, and of course I’d gotten the wrong one, so back we went to swap THAT.  I’m so sick of Best Buy right now.  Got home and made another batch of cinnamon rolls and the one and only batch of turkey noodle soup (which was fabulous!), packed up all the remaining leftovers and said farewell to Thanksgiving and a hearty hello to Christmas.

Christmas?  Already?  Yeah, I know, my usual rule is no decorating before my birthday on the 17th, but we were out, and I’d just gotten paid.  I’d complained to Hero on our way home from BB that no one local was selling trees yet this year, and she suggested we go by the church that usually does tree sales.  I hadn’t seen any signs, so I doubted they would, but we went to check, and sure enough, this was their first day selling them.  For $30, we got a lovely 5 foot Douglas fir that was just cut three days before so it still smelled magnificent.  We set it right up in the living room so it could settle in, have a good drink and start making the house smell like Christmas.  The kids and I did the lights last night, and we’ll poke at decorating as they have time this week.  No pressure, just a relaxed easing into the holiday.  It’s so easy to do when the house is clean.  Doesn’t feel overwhelming.  For the first time in a long time, I’m looking forward to it!

In which I am a muggle

In which I am a muggle

I didn’t spend a whole weekend cleaning for a change.  Don’t get me wrong, I did quite a bit, mostly in the kitchen (organized and lined the cooking tool drawer, got rid of one of the counter top shelves that was really just serving as a crap collector), did laundry, got Morgan to organize the camping closet. But I did a lot more fun things.  Well, for certain definitions of fun.  Morgan and I went to Lowe’s and picked up all the supplies we need to lay our new front walk over Thanksgiving weekend.

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I made bread.  (The bread will be getting its own post.  I’m in absolute transports about the bread.)

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And I got to hang out with my girlfriends.  It’s not always easy for us to find time together.  Nikki and I are online together most nights (or we were before my children started doing ALL THE THINGS), but we tend to only see each other once a month, and Deb is even harder.  I get to have lunch with her maybe once a month, but Nikki doesn’t even get to see her that much.  And for all three of us to get together?  Madness.  So our Wholigan nights are special, even when we don’t do anything special.  Saturday night was one of those nights.  Nikki came up to my house, and I let her shop my fiber stash to feed her burgeoning spinning interest.  Then we went down to Deb’s and hung out.  And really, that’s all we did.  Hung out at her dining room table, ate and talked until her kids went to bed, when we moved in by the living room fire to eat and talk some more.  And knit.  And spin.  Nikki had brought her new spindles, so when I got frustrated with my current knitting project (a Tilting TARDISes cowl.  Only five more repeats.  Out of eight.  *sigh*), I picked them up and some of the fiber she’d pilfered from me and took them for a test spin.  I’m not a big fan of spindling, but it was soothing to do for an hour.  Deb’s husband laughed at what a wild group we were when he got home to find us all sitting in front of the fire just watching this spindle spin.  But hey, it was that kind of a night.

So it ended up being a bit of a spinny weekend.  Sunday night I got on my travel wheel to work on the yak/silk fiber I got in Rhinebeck.  Got about 2/3 of the way through the bobbin and was spinning until midnight, happy as a clam.  Nice, fine, even singles coming off my fingers.  My shoulders are a little stiff now, but it’s a good feeling.

The feeling that’s not so good?  My long draw spinning.  I can’t do this.  I don’t think it’s a skill.  I think it’s magic, and the people who can do it are laughing at me for being such a muggle that I can’t figure it out.  Don’t believe me?  Watch this video.

It just flows off her hands.  That’s not normal.  When I do it, the fiber fights me every inch, breaks, knots, clumps, it’s awful.  It takes me fifteen minutes to get through one rolag.  We hates it, precious!  We hates it forever!!

But that quote is why I HAVE to master this.  I got some gorgeous Gotland fiber at Rhinebeck this year. (maybe I told you this already)**goes back and checks** (Yup, you know all about my Middle Earth fiber.)  But because it’s…*ahem*…precious, I want to make sure I spin it right.  And all the recommendations I’m seeing are to spin it long draw to keep it from being wiry.  So I am determined to learn.

Even though I suck.

My teacher (herein referred to as Alpaca!Deb, not to be confused with Who!Deb) told me when she was first teaching me that it takes a pound of fiber to learn a new skill.  So that’s what I’ve done, set aside a pound of different braids of fiber to practice on.  Not my best stuff, but not crap, either.  I pulled the first braid into rolls (called rolags),

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and I’m trying to do fifteen minutes a night.  I’m failing miserably.

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This is what I did in October.  That’s about two hours of work.  Remember how I filled 2/3s of a bobbin Sunday night?  Yeah.  And it’s all clumpy and bunchy and underspun and I’m miserable about it.  I want to be a wizard, not a squib, and I’m feeling very squib-like at the moment.  But the good spinning this weekend has rededicated me.  I *will* practice fifteen minutes every night.  At a minimum.  Even if it’s just one rolag.  Just like Tour de Fleece, I must spin every day.

But I still think these magical spinners are keeping information to themselves…

Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage

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This past weekend was the annual New York Sheep and Wool Festival up in Rhinebeck, New York.  Amongst fibery folk, this is a bit like Mecca.  Everyone wants to go at least once.  I’ve been fortunate, living where I do, that once I discovered it, we started going every year.  We would drive up to my mother’s the night before, stay over, and then drive the hour and a half from there to Rhinebeck, get in when the gates opened, and be done by 1 or 2, when the crowds got overwhelming.  Mom usually went with us, but when she couldn’t, we would always bring her back goodies.  But then last year she moved to Virginia in September, and we decided our Rhinebeck days were done.

But god, we missed it.  We needed Rhinebeck in our lives.  We love the Maryland festival, which is growing and improving every year, but it just isn’t the same as fall in New York.

So this year, I begged my brother to let us impose on him.  He’s just a little further south from where Mom lived, so it was still doable.  He and his wife were very generous about letting us, and suggested I bring Hero along as that was the weekend he would have my nephew Owen, and they could go with and hang out together.  So that was set.  Nikki caught the train up to my house on Friday afternoon, getting there just as I was getting home from work.  We threw everything and the girl in the car and were on our way.

We got to Gabe’s at about 7:30, just in time for pizza and kittens.  Pam is a vet and works with a local shelter.  When they get tiny kittens in that need fostering, she sometimes brings them home.  This time she had two little one month olds, a tabby and a tortie, who could barely stand, they were so small.  It was very tempting to sneak one home with us!  I think this was Nikki’s first time being around little ones like that, and she was totally smitten.  But the long day, long drive and early start time the next morning caught up with us fast, and we were crashing by 9.

We were all up by 6, and Gabe made us eggs before we hit the road at 7.  It was a gorgeous morning,

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punctuated by hot air balloons

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We saw three different ones within 5 miles.  It was brilliant.

We got to the fairground at about 8:30, half an hour before the gate opened, and the front lot was already full.  The gate we usually go in had a line all the way down and onto the road, so we went to the other gate, which turned out to be propitious.  One of the best things about Rhinebeck being in the fall is that people get to show off their knitwear because, well, it’s chilly!  The Rhinebeck sweater is a thing, often a thing with epic stories behind them.  I was wearing my Eden Prairie shawl, as I was really proud of it (and it was snuggly warm!)

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We had barely gotten in line when I heard a voice behind me say, “I know that shawl!  Oh, I know that person!”  Turned around and it was a fandom friend who I talk to all the time on Twitter and occasionally on LJ, but we’ve only met in person once before, there at Rhinebeck in passing.  So we got to have a nice conversation in line while we waited for the gates to open while the kids played ninja and I’m sure annoyed everyone else in the line.  As soon as we got inside, we split up, the kids off to do their own thing and Nikki and I off to do a methodical job, starting with the main buildings, although we rarely buy anything there.  Cell signal is terrible up there, so I had wisely (I thought) brought our camping walkie talkies, one for me, one for the kids.  Little did I know my battery would give out after an hour.  We made good progress, though, and were out of the buildings before the worst of the crowds settled in.  I found a great deal on tussah silk, and found the laceweight yarn I want to use to make Hero’s bridal shawl. (Shut up.  I know she’s only 13, but do you KNOW how long it will take me to make this damn thing?  And if she doesn’t get married, I’ll give it to her for getting her D.VM. or something.  It’s fine.)  But I didn’t buy anything.  I had a list, and I wanted to see everything before I made any decisions.

We met the kids at our designated meeting spot (thankfully I’d been wise enough to do that ahead).  They were pretty much eating their way through the fair, which was pretty much what I’d expected.  But they were good, so I told them where we’d be and we started on the barns.

The barns are always my favorites.  The smaller vendors tend to be there, and there are always treasures to be found.  And this year was no exception.  I finally, FINALLY found Turkish drop spindles that I hadn’t been able to find at Maryland or in the buildings.  But I didn’t buy one yet in case I found something else I needed.  And I found an amazing deal on Gotland fiber, 8 oz. for $9.  I have a weakness for Gotland.  I call it Middle Earth fiber, as it’s the fiber that was used to make the cloaks for the Fellowship in Caras Galadhon in the Lord of the Rings movies.  But I didn’t buy it.  What if there was something else?  That was becoming a pattern.  I was frozen in indecision.  I couldn’t commit to ANYTHING.  All the beautiful yarns and fibers that I picked up and almost bought, then put down and walked away from.  Nikki bought stuff before I did.  Unheard of!  I started to get really frustrated with myself.

Finally we finished all the buildings and tracked the kids down to get lunch.  I think at that point I needed the break.  And the protein.  We got fair fare (hot dogs for the kids, sausage and peppers for us) and had a seat.  Hurrah.  The lines were starting to get long everywhere, which was kind of our signal to get the heck out.  So I started making a list.  I’d kept cards with notes from almost everywhere I’d found stuff I wanted, so now I sorted them out by get now, save for later and not happening.  Then I wrote everything I wanted down along with their prices, and totaled it up.  4 things I was absolutely getting, with about $80 left over for whims.  Pretty good.  So we sent the kids off with the agreement to meet back at 1, and I went on a mission, dragging poor Nikki along behind.

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I was victorious.  I got the silk and a pound and a half of the Gotland (my first sweater quantity!)  I got sock yarn for a barter I’d arranged with a coworker, and a contrasting color for myself.  I got one luscious braid of yak/silk.  I wanted a sweater quantity of that, but at $31 a skein, when I need 6 skeins, it wasn’t happening that day.  But I will go back to her in January to get it.  She said she’d even do a special order for me if I needed it!  So the one braid is just to get familiar with it so I’m ready for the SQ.  I got a braid of merino, just because I like the color and it was cheap ($10).  I got a handmade Turkish spindle that it lovely and light.  Plus I got to give Turkish instructions to two people while I was waiting to pay!  I tried to score an instructors discount, but that didn’t fly…  I rounded it out with a bottle of wool wash and some goat’s milk cheese for Gabe and Pam and we were done.  The shawl yarn ended up being waaaaay too expensive.  I get that it’s a luxury blend (silk/angora), but $55 for 1500 yds just seemed a little excessive.  The blending boards were all well priced at $160, but when I know I can get the cloth for $75 and make my own, I just couldn’t justify it.  And I couldn’t remember where I had been talking to the lady about the dye kit, so I couldn’t go back for that.  Which breaks my heart, because after the fact I realized it was a dyer whose yarn we LOVE, but they’re closing up the business and moving to Colorado after this show!  *sigh*  But I see those kits every year at both shows, so next time.

We were on the road by 2, and stopped off at Hyde Park so Nikki could get some Roosevelt tat for her mom.  We usually stop there every year, and never have a problem.  Well, Ken Burns’ series has obviously done what it intended, because the place was PACKED.  We had to park way the hell and gone, so I dropped Nikki and Hero near the door and waited in the car with Owen, who had passed out.  they were in and out in 15 minutes, and we scooted.  We were tempted to buzz Sleepy Hollow, but at that point we were just too burned out, so home we went.

Which was when Nikki broke.

My friend is a woman of strong will and determination.  But with enough patience, you can convince her of anything.  Thus it has been all along this fiber journey of mine.  She didn’t need to knit, crochet was fine.  She didn’t need fancy yarns, Red Heart was good enough.  She now knits Manos de Uruguay, her preferred yarn.  I just keep exposing her to things and eventually she succumbs on her own.  Thus it was that day with spinning.  I don’t know if it was me spindle shopping, or all the gorgeous fiber, or watching the Australian/New Zealand (we still aren’t sure which) lady doing long draw on the wheel, but something got in her head that day and said it was time.  She had bought 2 oz. of an alpaca blend for me to spin for her, but she decided she wanted to try it herself. Thankfully I had brought my top whorl spindle with me just in case, along with my yarn swift and ball winder.  Hey, some projects won’t wait!  So I dug it out, got her set up and showed her the basics the way my teacher, Deb (not that Deb.  We call this one Alpaca!Deb in my house) had shown me.  I spun a couple of yards to show her, and then let her have a go at it.  To keep from hovering, I tried to take a nap.  In the 20 minutes it took for Gabe and Pam to get dinner on the table (an amazing vegetarian chili!), she had the basics down and was well and truly bitten.  My “I win!” dance might have been a bit gloaty.

We had dinner and puttered around a bit, and then settled in to watch X-men: Days of Future Past, which was surprisingly excellent, as my last X-movie experience had been X3, which was terrible.  We made it to 10:30 that night.  Go us!  But sleep was entertainingly challenged by Pam and Gabe’s cats, who decided to make their presence known in a myriad of ways that night.  Despite that, I still got a decent night’s sleep.

We eased into the day the next morning, hitting the road around 10.  All the indulging of the day before had finally caught up with Owen, who had a terrible stomach ache as we were leaving.  Poor thing.  We made a pit stop at a local farm stand for cider donuts and apples.  OMG, these apples.  They’re the size of softballs!

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Two of them made a whole apple crisp.  And so good!  From there it was a pretty traffic-free drive down to Philly and then a not so traffic free drive back up to home.  Dropped Hero off at OM and went home myself to crash.  The sign of a great weekend.

I still haven’t started anything from the new goodies, although I’m itching to.  I’m binding off a lace project at the moment, and then can start the barter project and a quick pair of wrist warmers for Xander.  I’m not touching the spinning until I can be less indecisive about it.  But I have time.

Only 7 months until Maryland Sheep and Wool…

 

The Wheels Spin On

The Wheels Spin On

Only four days left of the Tour, and I’m still spinning madly.

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I’ll save the finished yarns and show them all off at once.

 

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But this will give you a sense of what I’ve been getting done (if you haven’t seen them all already on my Twitter or Tumblr feed).

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These are the last of the Nerd Wars projects I have to get done, and then I can spin whatever I want just for fun.

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I’m exhausted, today, though.  I’ve been getting to bed waaaaaay too late.  Like after midnight for four days out of the last week.  I can’t do that.  I suffer too much for it.  I crashed at about 10:30 on Monday after hero’s 4H meeting, feeling completely justified as it was a rest day. Plus I took my wheel with me to the meeting and kept on plying.  An hour and a half later and I still wasn’t done.  I hate having unfinished plying around, but I’d been working on this for two days on a wheel that isn’t best suited for plying and I was losing it, so I bailed on it when we came home.

Me, competitive?  Noooooo….